How to stop panicking?

How to do without panic and how to panic with benefit?

Our anxious editor Olya Tretyakova asks psychologist Polina Tur.

The day after the announcement of universal self-isolation, I ran out of milk and toilet paper. Because while everyone was buying up the essentials, I lived almost as usual and in the back of my mind even laughed a little at the alarmists.

By the time everyone had shopped until the end of the apocalypse, my meager supply had just run out. So I went out to get milk. Of course, in compliance with all sanitary norms, that is, wearing a mask and disposable gloves. Maintaining a social distance from the rare passers-by, I ran to the nearest store, wiped the sealed bottle of milk and a roll of toilet paper with antiseptic, put them in the backpack brought from home and praised myself for observing the new rules (and I do pretty well!). Then I decided to stop by a flower store and buy a couple of bushes of my favorite daisies, carnations, or eustoms.

The store was closed. And I cried right at the entrance, looking through a window of yellow bouquets. I roared, hiccuping and wiping away my tears with my sleeve, and could not stop.

I understand that many people would think I was a capricious dragonfly, fussing over nothing. Everything is, and everything is not.

Everyone has their own ways of coping with the unknowable fierce crap. Some work selflessly under stress, some pump their ass, some cook Olivier. I go for the yellow flowers. I lived through the collapse of the Soviet Union, perestroika, and the crises of the 1990s, 2000s, and whatever else there were. Do you know how? Thanks to yellow flowers. When everything was falling apart, I would buy a bunch or rip a few dandelions, bring them home, and then look at the flowers, sunny and bright, and think: everything will definitely be okay. I’m going to make it.

And then the day before yesterday, when that tried-and-true way failed, I realized: nothing is going to be okay. I will not be okay. It’s going to be bad, bad, bad… And then we’re all going to die! Aaaaah!

My heart began to beat twice as fast, my hands and knees began to shake, sweat appeared on my forehead, and it became difficult to breathe. At the window of a flower store I met with my panic. The very real panic.

And somehow returned home, called my friend psychologist Pauline Thor.

Why do we panic?

A lone beachgoer on Copacabana in Rio. REUTERS/Ricardo Moraes

Panic is a loss of control, of the situation and yourself, Pauline Tour explained. – It occurs as a reaction to something unusual or frightening for which we are totally unprepared. The feeling of terror is so strong that it overshadows everything, not allowing you to think logically. The mind shuts down and the animal instincts kick in: “fight or flight.”

From an evolutionary point of view, it’s not so useless: it’s better to get out of a situation we have no control over. Or run out.

Is it even normal to worry? Absolutely. The fact that you have an anxious reaction in a shockingly uncertain situation suggests that you are a normal person. Anxiety is one of the mechanisms of survival. It activates attention, control and planning and gives you a chance to improve your own effectiveness.

Panic or pessimism?

Ballet dancer Ashlee Montague dances in Times Square. REUTERS/Andrew Kelly

I mean, worrying is okay. But some people don’t seem to be worried at all! Take at least the recent events – while some bought tons of buckwheat and toilet paper, others continued to live their lives, spitting on all this coronavirus with quarantine and self-isolation. We went out for barbecues, went for walks in the parks. Maybe it was better this way?

No, Pauline explains. It’s not just a matter of social irresponsibility. The point is that the basis of indifference is the denial of reality. But denial is not good for us, either. Denial is a defense mechanism of the psyche. For some people certain situations can be so intolerable that the psyche gives up and turns on the defense: it’s okay, nothing happens.

If you have recently tried to make an elderly relative stay at home, and he rushed to work, to his grandchildren, “just to the store and back,” you know what we are talking about.

So which is worse, panic or indifference? And what’s worse, drowning or getting burned? In all seriousness, no one can teach you how to react “right.” Just keep in mind: both extremes are destructive. But there is a way out.

Try to see anxiety not as a black-and-white picture, but as a gradient or scale, Pauline Tour advises. On one side will be indifference (0 points), on the other – panic (100 points). Now find your reaction on this segment.

What Pauline is talking about is called the “runner technique.” Our job is to set the runner on the anxiety scale so that its level is as productive as possible. On the one hand, kept in a tone, helped protect themselves. On the other hand – did not allow to act chaotically. That is, it pushed them to be as productive as possible.

A woman walks outside Castel Sant’Angelo in Rome. REUTERS/Remo Casilli

My runner is in denial right now. But the more I read the news and world conspiracy theories, the more I think about the situation and watch the dollar exchange rate, the less I want to do anything at all. All I want is to hide from all this under a blanket with a soap opera and cookies. So when it’s really bad, I go into a parallel reality.

I have this toy called ZooCraft. It’s kind of like the “farms” that were popular a few years ago. Only here you don’t have to plant strawberries, you have to breed rare animals, landscape their areas, and escort straying visitors to the right enclosures. Fifteen cleaning the paths and feeding the animals, and I’m ready to get back to real life and work again. Why? Because I have a place, at least this one, a toy place, where everything is always good.

But that’s me. What level of anxiety is productive for you, no one can say for sure. Pauline agrees: “Everyone has this individual runner, you can not say: the right to worry at 30%, 50% or 70%. This choice a person makes himself.

If you panic: an ambulance

A dog wearing a mask in Shanghai. REUTERS/Aly Song

There are many well-known ways to cope with a panic attack: level your breathing, close your eyes, pet a cat, pray or say a mantra. But what if that doesn’t work?

If you suddenly have rolled over, try the technique “support” (the first letters of her key words), Pauline advises .

Stop . Just tell yourself “Stop. Stop all the action, freeze, like a stone statue. Do not move, do not say a word. Imagine Harry Potter came up to you, pointed his wand at you and said: “Fragment!”

Why? It will save you from doing things you might regret later.

Look at . What is going on around you? What do you hear, what do you see? Now shift your focus to yourself. How do you feel? How do you breathe? Mentally describe everything in as much detail as possible, like a stenographer.

Why? It will help you shift your focus away from the burdensome, destructive thoughts of the past and the future to the here and now.

Become aware of . What you’re feeling, what you’re worried about (fear for yourself and loved ones, helplessness to the situation, anxiety, excitement). Don’t evaluate, just acknowledge: it’s all there – in the here and now.

Why? To accept the situation. It’s the only way to move forward.

Ask yourself . What do I really need right now? What actions will lead me to my goal? What can I do right now?

Why? To incorporate rational thinking.

Activate . Start the countdown: 5-4-3-2-1. And act!

And most importantly: know that panic is not fatal. Proved: it can not kill you, cause a heart attack, stroke or drive you crazy. Panic is unpleasant, but it’s not the end of the world. Try to remember that if it suddenly attacks you.

Here’s a personal tip from me. When I’m under the weather, I save myself with water. If at home, I go straight into the shower and stand under it for a few minutes. I truly believe in and know for myself that the water washes away all the anxiety (about the water bill, please do not ask, because the pulse is something again frequent:). If I can’t stand under the shower, I slowly drink half a cup of water in small sips. There are 14 of them in half of my favorite cup. I know because I count them. And on the fourteenth sip, the panic recedes.

If it’s still unsettling

A rapid transit train in Kuala Lumpur. REUTERS/Lim Huey Teng

Even if the anti-panic ambulance arrives in time, the anxiety doesn’t go anywhere. I try to remain productive, but a car passes under my window every half hour, broadcasting over a loudspeaker a message: “Stay indoors, everyone! Don’t go anywhere because of the threat of the coronovirus!” And I’m alarmed. Who isn’t?

Pauline says you can try to deal with that, too.

  • Recognize the fact that anxiety is justified under the circumstances, it’s a natural healthy reaction. So – be anxious.
  • Accept the fact that the uncertainty factor isn’t going anywhere: there are too many unknowns in the covid equation. We have to take it as a given: no measure will give us a 100% security guarantee.
  • Become the boss. Given the experience of the world’s religions, even out of complete chaos you can create something worthwhile in seven days. So identify the area where you are the boss. To overcome the feeling of helplessness and lack of control, focus on what depends on you – advises Pauline Tour. What exactly can you do in the current situation to keep yourself safe? My answer is to have less social contact, save money and work prospectively. So every day I write a plan and monitor its implementation. And on the advice of Pauline, I say to myself, “I’m doing my best.
  • Stop mindlessly surfing the news. Let’s be honest: Everything about the coronavirus is presented in a way that scares us as much as possible. The goal is good: to increase our social responsibility. But it’s a fact: the dramatic presentation of the news evokes a sense of panic, of terror.
  • Schedule Anxiety . This and the next two tips are from Robert Leahy, American psychologist and author of 28 books (the main topic is anxiety and how to deal with it). Allocate time for anxiety. Tell yourself: at seven o’clock every night I read the news and for exactly half an hour I get anxious from the soul about the coronavirus, the dollar exchange rate and self-isolation. What’s the trick? On the one hand, you respect your feelings and set a time to express them. And on the other, when that time comes, perhaps the acute anxiety will dissipate itself.
  • Chew some gum. It will relax your tense jaws, and you will feel less stiff. And with relaxation, your anxiety will decrease.
  • Don’t get carried away with stimulants. Less coffee, chocolate, and stimulants. It’s proven that they increase anxiety.
  • Smell the lavender. It’s really soothing – here’s a proverb.
  • Face your fear. It’s hard to do, but it’s a technique that works. Admit to yourself, what is your greatest fear? Formulate and speak out loud your greatest fear. In my case, it’s not death from a virus, but death from starvation in the street. My biggest fear is that I will not have a job, that because of the economic crisis and inflation I will have nowhere to live and no money to buy the essentials. In the end, my son and I will die alone somewhere in an alley. On Robert Leahy’s advice, I repeated these phrases over and over again for 20 minutes – slowly and tastefully. At first it was awful – I was literally choking on the words. But here’s the paradox – after 20 minutes they lost their meaning, and with it gone and their power over me.
  • Sort through the nightmares. We’re afraid of a bunch of things: that the crisis will stop paying our salaries, that we’ll all get sick and die, that a virus will mutate and people will turn into zombies. And at the end of this horror movie, a meteorite will fall on us. What to do about it? Present your fear in the form of a movie. In all the details you see on the screen. This will create distance between you and the horror, and help you realize that many fears are unreal, and you shouldn’t be seriously worried about them.

I’ll be honest: after finishing this post, I felt much calmer than when I sat down for it:) And what techniques and tips are helping you? Share in the comments.


There are 48,000 people subscribed to Pauline’s Instagram. And from today begins registration for her online course “5 keys to self-esteem.

The program includes: 8 webinars of 120 + minutes with the ability to connect to the broadcast and ask questions about the time of the class and watch the recordings in your personal account.

How to cope with and overcome anxiety?

Knees are shaking, the pencil is trying to slip out of his hands, red ears and face – we all know this unpleasant condition when the wave of panic hits. Some people easily tolerate excitement, and some – no. In this article, we will share with you tips and ways to quickly overcome anxiety and excitement.

Why do people get anxious?

Worry is an emotion that the limbic system of the brain is responsible for causing. This part of the brain is virtually uncontrollable, yet it plays a major role in human development and survival.

The limbic system works rather complexly. The almond-shaped body stimulates the “hypothalamus” area of the brain in a dangerous situation. This in turn signals the adrenal glands, which activate a mechanism to produce stress hormones (adrenaline and cortisol). This triggers the “fight or flight” survival reaction. This is what saved our ancestors in life-threatening situations. It turns out that we are the descendants of people who were afraid, worried and anxious, and these emotions are embedded in us at the level of evolution.

Worry is not yet anxiety, but a mild form of it. The body of an anxious person is alert, and it is as if it is pondering: “Is there danger or will it get around?” If the defensive reaction of “resistance and/or escape” is triggered, then the person begins to have an anxiety disorder.

The external factors that cause anxiety are events and circumstances. The internal causes of such a state can be individual characteristics of a particular person: from the size of the brain departments to the peculiarities of child-parent relationships, upbringing and development.

Worry – is it normal?

Worrying is normal, because it is excitement that is our defensive reaction, which does not carry health risks. People worry when faced with something unfamiliar, because at such moments the brain calculates and evaluates the situation in order to adapt to it, to insure itself and eventually cope.

But if a person is constantly worried, the stress hormones have a negative effect on the body. Rapid heartbeat and breathing, elevated blood sugar levels, altered blood circulation on a regular basis can lead to cardiac abnormalities.

In what cases do you need to see a psychologist?

If the excitement causes a person to:

  • Is sick;
  • Can not perform their work well;
  • Unable to solve the necessary daily tasks;
  • Is afraid to appear in society;
  • Avoids unfamiliar places;
  • loses control of himself or herself;
  • Feels depressed;
  • Feels that anxiety increases or increasingly occurs for no apparent reason;
  • turns to the “life-saving” effects of alcohol or drugs to relieve the anxiety,

he should consider consulting a psychologist or psychotherapist. A specialist will diagnose the psycho-emotional state, identify the cause of anxiety and worry, and offer methods for solving this problem (medication and psychotherapy sessions).

If you wish, you can choose and master a professional retraining course, which will give you the opportunity to learn all the existing modern psychotherapeutic methods and help to combat anxiety for yourself and others who need it.

If anxiety has little effect on the quality of your life, you can try to cope with it yourself.

The 8 best ways to quickly cope with anxiety and overcome fear

There are effective ways to quickly buy anxiety and stop worrying. Take it for yourself.

Breathe deeply . You can use the simplest version of breathing relaxation: breathe in deeply with your nose (counting to five) and make an even deeper exhalation with your mouth (counting to six). It is important that the exhalation takes longer than the inhalation. Repeat 9-10 times, mentally imagining the air entering and leaving your lungs.

Wash your face with ice water . High levels of excitement contribute to loss of control. To correct the situation, shifting the focus from the exciting object, event, or phenomenon to the feeling of coldness, a simple washing of the face and hands will help.

Clench your fists . Any motor activity will help to calm down. Not every anxious person has an opportunity to run around the house, but you can clench your fists strongly even during a public speaking. When clenching your fingers, take a deep breath, and at the end of the exhalation gradually unclench your hands.

Do not pay attention to your inner voice. Often the excitement comes from the fact that you are elementary winded. In your head you have already replayed the situation and came up with a disappointing scenario of its outcome. Gather all your will and mute the internal dialogue. Write on paper why you are worried, and think – are these reasons really worth your worries?

Panic. Yes, yes, allow yourself to panic, admit to yourself that you are up to the limit of excitement and worry a lot. Such a confession will disarm the panic.

Distract yourself from your anxious thoughts. Try to focus your attention on another object. Take your time, look at it carefully, determine the color/shape/composition/size, think about what it could be inside.

Let the tears flow . Worry is often a mental reaction to systematic suppression of emotions. Allowing yourself to cry from time to time is an opportunity for the body to unload, to release tension.

Don’t put off excitement for later . You’ll still have to sooner or later perform the necessary actions: go to the dentist or talk to your boss. Postpone things – it means to be constantly in a state of excitement. It is better to quickly resolve the problem and pass the peak of discomfort, before the anxiety has not turned into a chronic disorder.

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